Informed Consent: Process, Tips and Suggestions

Though obtaining consent from an interviewee to use footage of them can be a relatively simple process, we work to ensure that we obtain informed consent from all of our interviewees. We do this for many reasons, but least of which is that video about human rights issues is often full of security concerns, communications barriers and is often a balancing act between the importance of getting your message out and the possibility of direct negative consequences for the people you film.

It is important to consider many more facets of obtaining ethical consent. According to “Frameworks for Informed Consent: Perspectives from Law, Ethics, Journalism, and Human Rights,” a memorandum from the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic of Yale Law School, the four main elements of informed consent to think about in human rights video are:

  • Disclosure: The use and the purpose of the information sought must be fully explained, in order to protect the subject’s safety and to maintain an honest relationship between interviewer and interviewee.
  • Voluntariness: The subject must give permission for the interview/material to be used and express whether he/she is willing to be identified by name, and must be in conditions that allow them to give this consent voluntarily.
  • Comprehension: The subject must understand the implications of the interview. This may be complicated if the subject does not have a full understanding of the reach of the intended distribution (i.e. the internet). The interviewer must find a balance, not being condescending, but also protecting the subject’s safety.
  • Competence: The subject must be able to comprehend the implications of his/her participation. This is an especially important issue with special populations (i.e. children, people with mental disabilities, people who have suffered significant trauma).

What’s Next? Interviewing for Beginners

Additional resources

  • For more detailed explorations of issues of consent in human rights video, including an in-depth look at these main elements, check out the “Safety and Security” chapter from the book “Video for Change: A Guide for Advocacy and Activism.”
  • Find out more about issues to expect during an interview with our tips for conducting great interviews.
  • To see an example of a standard consent form, check out U.K.-based Channel 4’s standard release form for documentaries.

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